The main agenda that keeps business running for an indefinite period of time is the ability to focus on social responsibility and business ethics; however, most businesses fail to recognize this critical point. Jennings and Entine (1998) agree that most business owners perceive the corporate responsibility to be focused on the product brand names. That means it is the product that has the role of being socially responsible rather than the firm. Among the brands that are listed by Jennings and Entine (1998) as being socially responsible include Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, The Body Shop International Cosmetics, and Nike, among others. These companies, all of which have engaged in marketing campaigns to promote their social consciousness, represent a coterie of’60 entrepreneurial companies with charismatic founders who have grown niche businesses into multi-national corporations. Their companies and products are associated with the labels “green” and “socially responsible” (Jennings, 2011).
Friedman defines the social responsibility of a company as being socially responsible for its actions to the community on an individual basis. Thus, Friedman tries to elaborate that responsibilities are only assigned to human beings. Therefore, if a business is to have social responsibilities, it should be assumed to be an artificial person. Otherwise, efforts to define a business to have social responsibilities should be by an in depth identification of the doctrine of social responsibility. Thus, “the first step toward clarity in examining the doctrine of the social responsibility of business is to ask precisely what it implies and for whom” (Jennings, 2011).
Freeman’s argument is similar to that of Friedman in respect to social responsibility. However, Freeman believes that the stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring that firms perform their social responsibilities. Each stakeholder has a role to play in fulfillment of social responsibilities, but leaving the social responsibility to the function of the shareholders results to the social responsibility being a function of profits (Friedman, 1970). This is evidenced where oil companies could opt to pay fines for releasing wastes into water bodies provided they consider that economically reasonable and thus such firms claim to be socially responsible. Jennings and Entine (1998) view that the stakeholders have such great power that they can do whatever they perceive to be the definition of social responsibilities, according to their own ethics.
Friedman, M. (1970, September). The Social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. The New York Times Magazine. pp. 32-33, 122-124.
Jennings, M. M. (2011). Business ethics: Case studies and selected readings. (Seventh Edition). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Jennings, M., & Entine, J. (1998). Business with a soul: A Reexamination of what counts in business ethics. Hamline Journal Of Public Law & Policy, 20(1), 1-88.
James E. Burroughs, Jr., MBA, Northcentral University, (480) 478-9534.